The Xbox One launched back in 2013, followed a month later by Halo: Spartan Assault. A Halo game by name, but not a traditional Halo game by nature; a top-down twin stick shooter that originally launched on mobiles before being ported to the new console. Fans of the franchise were desperate for an FPS Halo game on their shiny new console, but knew the wait would be long as Halo 4 only launched the year before in 2012.
Remember this is back before the days of backwards compatibility, where the real estate space under the TV had to deal with an Xbox 360 and an Xbox One to get the true Xbox experience. Then at E3 2014, Halo: The Master Chief Collection was announced, and it remains one of the greatest compilations of games to date.
The announcement promised Halo: Anniversary, Halo 2 – now receiving the Anniversary treatment for the first time – Halo 3 and Halo 4, as well as over 100 multiplayer maps from all four games.
Originally, it was only planned to be the Halo 2: Anniversary arriving on Xbox One, but the cry for Halo was too much to ignore. The teams – being led by head Halo developers 343 Industries – opted for something more than a simple port of the games. Rather than seeing us play through the games and their missions consecutively, all four games were opened up from the beginning allowing players to play whichever mission they wanted, and whenever.
They went one step further with this by curating Playlists of levels and missions across all four games; some were specific to a single game, others crossed all four titles. These Playlists also took into account the skulls that have become synonymous with Halo: game-changing modifiers that made the Master Chief’s fight that little bit harder against the Covenant and the Flood.
When the Halo MCC launched on 11th November 2014, it’s fair to say it wasn’t without its issues, particularly with the multiplayer. It was so bad in fact, that 343 Industries issued a public apology and offered several incentives to those affected, including the Halo 3: ODST campaign for free, arguably one of the best single-player campaigns in the entire franchise.
Other content to be added post-release was Spartan Ops from Halo 4 for free, and there is also the upcoming Halo: Reach. Of course, content drops as big as these require hefty Achievement lists, and Halo: MCC certainly has one of the biggest lists in Xbox history.
Even when it first released, the collection had 400 achievements for players to aim for. This is now up to 600 with content releases for a grand total of 6,000 Gamerscore. And with the pending release of Halo: Reach, these numbers are expected to increase yet again.
If anyone is interested, I have 337 achievements so far for 2,860 Gamerscore. But I am far from done.
Another reason people were so invested in The Master Chief Collection was that it included the next chapter in the saga through Halo: Nightfall, an episodic series that bridged the gap between what was in the collection to the upcoming Halo 5. The collection also granted access to the Halo 5 multiplayer beta 10 months before the game launched in October 2015.
The collection also unofficially said goodbye to the 360, by replacing the Halo Waypoint app on the older console, with the Halo Channel app on the Xbox One. This has since been left to collect digital dust also.
For me though, this release was one of only two midnight launches I went to – the other being Grand Theft Auto V on the 360. And unlike the GTA launch, being stood outside your local game retailer in the middle of November is a noticeably colder affair. My partner and I took it in turns to run to the nearest McDonalds and bring hot refreshments. Judging from the others in the queue at the fast-food outlet, we weren’t the only ones with that idea.
But the whole point of attending a midnight launch is to be able to play the game straight away after release. And after the nightmare I had playing GTA V on release day, my hopes for a successful ‘Day One’ with The Master Chief Collection were a lot more grounded.
What followed wasn’t a complete disaster that required a brand-new Xbox, but it didn’t exactly go to plan. Firstly, the massive install size and day-one update – that featured most of the multiplayer that simply couldn’t fit on the disc – made sure I wasn’t playing much Halo before going to bed. Interestingly though, you could prioritise which games you wanted to be installed, allowing players to pick and choose what would install and when. But as this was back before HDDs became full after only one game, I wanted all of it on there, so had to settle for watching progress bars inching along the screen for most of the night.
Thankfully, these online issues have largely gone now; 343 Industries spent a long-time post-release fixing the servers and issues, even releasing an Xbox One X update back in August 2018. As it represents the complete Halo package, it has been constantly updated and maintained extremely well.
Best of all, being a first-party game, the collection – minus ODST – is on Xbox Game Pass and still features full multiplayer lobbies. It has been a game that I regularly dip in and out of when the Halo itch strikes and having everything unlocked from the beginning makes my favourite levels accessible whenever I like.
As for the future of the series, the next game has already been announced as Halo Infinite and all signs point towards that as being a launch title for Project Scarlett, but with an Xbox One release also. My hope for this collection is that it makes the jump over to the next-gen console as either backwards compatible or a brand-new collection containing the likes of Halo 5 and Halo Wars.
What are your memories of this collection, or even the Halo franchise in general, and what do you hope the future holds for this beloved series? Hit us up in the comments and share your stories! And don’t forget, you can grab the Halo MCC right now from the Xbox Store. It’s also available from Amazon.